Always Elizabeth

Deer

I associate french fries with Elizabeth. Still, to this day, I can picture her face when the french fries that she DID NOT WANT appeared on her plate. I can’t forget her face. She looked like a deer, with white, almost translucent skin and dark, dark eyebrows and eyes.

When I was in High School, a long, long time ago, in Jamaica, NY, in the early seventies, I was good friends with a girl named Elizabeth W. I don’t want to give her last name since she seemed to disappear and maybe she wanted it that way; I hope that’s the reason.  This was a friend, a dear, enormously talented friend that wrote amazing stories, poetry; I think she was an artist too.

I remember we cut class together and would go to a pond or grassy area right near the school and talk about writing and life and everything esoteric. What sticks in my mind the most is that this was one tragic, sad girl. I cannot call her “young woman” because nothing about her wanted to grow up or change. She was the daughter of one Child Psychiatrist and another Psychiatrist or Psychologist. Elizabeth was one very sick girl. I am not sure if her parents knew how sick she was.

Back then, as my daughter would say, in the land of dinosaurs, no-one knew what Anorexia was but certainly that is what Elizabeth had. I remember vividly going to a restaurant and Elizabeth told the waitress at least twenty times that she did not want french fries with her sandwich. She said it over and over and I also told the waitress to make sure they didn’t bring french fries because I knew how Elizabeth would react, badly, of course. Sure enough, Elizabeth, never Liz or Lizzy or Betsy or Beth freaked out. Deep down in my stomach I sensed that would happen and I swept the offending french fries away and started to try to talk her down. She was inconsolable, she cried and trembled and cursed; we left immediately. I want to say we went to a show or a movie after that but I don’t know what we saw. I think there were kids throwing candy and that upset you, and me, too.  Poor Elizabeth, no one knew much about your illness back then.

I remember your very pale, very skinny body that seemed to shed it’s own skin. The hair on your arms were black or maybe that’s just how I remember them. We took a trip to Philadelphia once, I don’t know why, but we did. We took the train together for a day trip, did we visit a museum? I remember nothing about what we did there or where we went or even why. I had an aunt and uncle that lived there but I am not sure if we saw them. I remember nothing but your face, dear Elizabeth and the photo in our yearbook; etched in my brain.

Rumor had it that you went to a small all-girls college, Smith maybe? I tried to track you down but never found you. I was your friend and then you were gone. Nobody knew anything about you, it’s as if you were a dream of mine, that you existed only in my imagination.

I just wanted you to know, if you are still out there in this enormous world, that someone has not forgotten you, that I remember your big dark eyes, and your wistful little smile, like that of a tiny kitten. I hope you are well, I hope more that you are still alive.

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